International Internet capacity will hit a bottleneck in as little as two years, said Bill Carter, president of telecommunications backbone operator Global Crossing Ltd., during a keynote address to the Asia Pacific Conference on e-commerce held Monday.

The root of the problem is technical, said Carter. On domestic cables, which run across land, carriers can put as many as 432 optical fibre pairs inside one insulated cable – a very large amount of bandwidth. However, when it comes to cables that run under the sea, protection from the water, shielding and other limitations mean a maximum of six fiber pairs can be built into each cable.

“It’s like you have the New Jersey Turnpike going into a one-lane country road,” he said. “So, we’re going to have a tremendous bottleneck internationally in two or three or four years.”

Since it is taking more than 14 months to manufacture the cable needed to run undersea, and since there are technological limitations in the construction of repeater stations – regularly positioned amplifiers along the cable route – the necessary capacity is unlikely to be deployed fast, said Carter.

As more users come online, the amount of traffic flowing under the oceans is expected to increase although its nature, at least between Asia and the U.S. mainland, is expected to change as the regional infrastructure is improved.

Global Crossing itself is busy building out its international network. Across the Atlantic, Global Crossing is currently planning its third transoceanic fibre – the third such cable in the same amount of years. Asia Global Crossing, its Asian affiliate in which Microsoft Corp. and Softbank Corp. also own stakes, plans to have the first half of its new regional cable in service by 2001 and the full cable in service by 2002.

Global Crossing, in Hamilton, Bermuda, can be reached at

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